Life of Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmerich
Vol 4

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The Soldiers


 one of them worked his foot up so that the bent knee stood out.

51. Jesus Mocked. His First Word on the Cross

After the crucifixion of the thieves and the distri­bution of the Lord's garments, the executioners gath­ered up their tools, addressed some mocking and insulting words to Jesus, and went their way. The Pharisees still present spurred up their horses, rode around the circle in front of Jesus, outraged Him in many abusive words, and then rode off. The hundred Roman soldiers with their commander also descended the mount and left the neighborhood, for fifty oth­ers had come up to take their place. The captain of this new detachment was Abenadar, an Arab by birth, who was later on baptized at Ctesiphon. The subal­tern officer was Cassius. He was a kind of petty agent of Pilate, and at a subsequent period he received the name of Longinus. Twelve Pharisees, twelve Sad­ducees, twelve Scribes, and some of the Ancients like­wise rode up the mount. Among the last-named were those Jews that had in vain requested of Pilate another inscription for the title of the cross. They were furious, for Pilate would not allow them even to appear in his presence. They rode around the cir­cle and drove away the Blessed Virgin, calling her a dissolute woman. John took her to the women who were standing back. Magdalen and Martha supported her in their arms.

When the Pharisees and their companions, in mak­ing the rounds of the circle, came before Jesus, they wagged their heads contemptuously, saying: "Fie upon Thee, liar! How dost Thou destroy the Temple, and buildest it again in three days?" "He always wanted to help others, and He cannot help Himself! Art Thou the Son of God? Then, come down from the cross!" "Is He the King of Israel? Then let Him come down


Life of Jesus Christ

 from the cross, and we will believe in Him." "He trusted in God. Let Him help Him now!" The sol­diers, in like manner, mocked and said: "If Thou art the King of the Jews, help Thyself now!"

At the sight of the Redeemer's silently abandon­ing Himself to the full of His immeasurable suffer­ings, the thief on the left exclaimed: "His demon has now deserted Him"; and a soldier stuck a sponge filled with vinegar on a stick and held it before Jesus' face. He appeared to suck a little of it. The mocking went on, and the soldier said: "If Thou art the King of the Jews, help Thyself!" All this took place while the first detachment of soldiers was being relieved by that under Abenadar.

And now Jesus, raising His head a little, exclaimed: "Father, forgive them, for· they know not what they do!" and then He prayed in a low tone. Gesmas cried out: "If Thou art the Christ, help Thyself and us!" The mocking continued. Dismas, the thief on the right, was deeply touched at hearing Jesus pray for His enemies. When Mary heard the voice of her Child, she could no longer be restrained, but pressed for­ward into the circle, followed by John, Salome, and Mary Cleophas. The captain of the guard did not pre­vent her.

Dismas, the thief on the right, received by virtue of Jesus' prayer an interior enlightenment. When the Blessed Virgin came hurrying forward, he suddenly remembered that Jesus and His Mother had helped him when a child. He raised his voice and cried in a clear and commanding tone: "How is it possible that ye can revile Him when He is praying for you! He has kept silence and patience, He prays for you, and you outrage Him! He is a Prophet! He is our King! He is the Son of God!" At this unexpected reproof out of the mouth of the murderer hanging there in misery, a tumult arose among the scoffers. They picked up stones to stone him on the cross. The Centurion Abenadar, however, repulsed their attack,

The Sun Is Obscured


 caused them to be dispersed, and restored order and quiet.

The Blessed Virgin felt herself strengthened by that prayer of Jesus. Gesmas was again crying to Jesus: "If Thou be the Christ, help Thyself and us!" when Dismas thus addressed him: "Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art under the same condem­nation. And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man had done no evil. Oh, bethink thee of thy sins, and change thy senti­ments!" Thoroughly enlightened and touched, he then confessed his crime to Jesus, saying: "Lord, if Thou dost condemn me, it will be just. But have mercy on me!" Jesus replied: "Thou shalt experience My mercy." At these words Dismas received the grace of deep contrition, which he indulged for the next quarter of an hour.

All the foregoing incidents took place, either simul­taneously or one after the other, between twelve and half-past, as indicated by the sun, and a few moments after the exaltation of the cross. A great change was rapidly taking place in the souls of most of the spec­tators, for even while the penitent thief was speak­ing, fearful signs were beheld in nature, and all present were filled with anxiety.

52. The Sun Obscured. The Second and The Third Words of Jesus on the Cross

Until ten that morning, at which hour Pilate pro­nounced the sentence, hail had fallen at intervals, but from that time until twelve o'clock the sky was clear and the sun shone. At twelve, however, the sun became obscured by a murky red fog. About the sixth hour (but, as I saw, about half-past by the sun, for the Jewish mode of reckoning varied from the sun) that luminary began to be obscured in a manner altogether wonderful. I saw the celestial bodies, the stars and the planets, circling in their orbits and


Life of Jesus Christ

 passing one another. I descried the moon on the oppo­site side of the earth and then, by a sudden run or bound, looking like a hanging globe of fire, it flashed up full and pale above the Mount of Olives. The sun was enveloped in fog, and the moon came sweeping up before it from the east. At first, I saw to the east of the sun something like a dark mountain, which soon entirely hid it. The center appeared pale yel­low, and around it was a red circle like a ring of fire. The sky became perfectly dark, and the stars shone out with a reddish gleam. Terror seized upon man and beast. The cattle bellowed and ran wildly about; the birds sought their hiding places, and lighted in flocks on the hills around Mount Calvary. One could catch them in his hands. The scoffers were silenced, while the Pharisees tried to explain these signs as natural phenomena, but they succeeded badly, and soon they, too, were seized with terror. All eyes were raised to the sky. Many beat their breast, wrung their hands, and cried: "His blood be upon His mur­derers!" Others far and near fell on their knees and implored Jesus' forgiveness, and Jesus, notwithstand­ing His agony, turned His eyes toward them. While the darkness was on the increase, the spectators gaz­ing up at the sky and the cross deserted by all except­ing Jesus' Mother and His nearest friends, Dismas, in deepest contrition and humble hope, raised his head to Jesus and said: "Lord, let me go to some place whence Thou mayest rescue me! Remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy Kingdom!" Jesus replied to him: "Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise!"

The Mother of Jesus, Mary Cleophas, Mary Mag­dalen, and John were standing around Jesus' cross, between it and those of the thieves, and looking up at the Lord. The Blessed Virgin, overcome by mater­nal love, was in her heart fervently imploring Jesus to let her die with Him. At that moment, the Lord cast an earnest and compassionate glance down upon

"Behold, this is thy Mother!"


 His Mother and, turning His eyes toward John, said to her: "Woman, behold, this is thy son! He will be thy son more truly than if thou hadst given him birth." Then He praised John, and said: "He has always been innocent and full of simple faith. He was never scandalized, excepting when his mother wanted to have him elevated to a high position." To John, He said: "Behold, this is thy Mother!" and John rever­ently and like a filial son embraced beneath the cross of the dying Redeemer Jesus' Mother, who had now become his Mother also. After this solemn bequest of her dying Son, the Blessed Virgin was so deeply affected by her own sorrow and the gravity of the scene that the holy women, supporting her in their arms, seated her for a few moments on the earthen rampart opposite the cross, and then took her away from the circle to the rest of the holy women.

I do not know whether Jesus pronounced all those words aloud with His sacred lips or not, but I per­ceived them interiorly when, before His death, He gave His Blessed Mother to John as his Mother and John to her as a son. In such contemplations many things are understood that are not set down in writ­ing, and one can relate the least part of them only in ordinary language. What is seen in such visions is so clear that one believes and understands it at once, but it is impossible to clothe it in intelligible words. So on such an occasion one is not at all sur­prised to hear Jesus addressing the Blessed Virgin, not as "Mother," but as "Woman"; for one feels that in this hour in which, by the sacrificial death of the Son of Man, her own Son, the Promise was realized. Mary stood in her dignity as the Woman who was to crush the serpent's head. Nor is one then sur­prised that Jesus gave to her, whom the angel saluted: "Hail, full of grace!" John as a son, for everyone knows that his name is a name of grace, for there, all are what they are called. John was become a child of God and Christ lived in him. I felt that by these


Life of Jesus Christ

 words Jesus gave to Mary, as to their Mother, all those that, like John, receiving Him and believing in His Name, become the sons of God, and who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. I felt that the purest, the humblest, the most obedient of creatures, she who said to the angel: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it done to me according to Thy word!"—she who had become the Mother of the Eternal Word Incarnate, now that she understood from her dying Son that she was to be the spiritual Mother of another son, in the midst of her grief at parting and still humbly obedient, again pronounced, though in her heart, the words: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it done to me according to Thy word!" I felt that she took at that moment for her own children all the children of God, all the brethren of Jesus. These things appear in vision so simple, so necessarily following as a consequence, though out of vision so manifold and complex, that they are more easily felt by the grace of God than expressed in words.

Fear and consternation filled Jerusalem. Fog and gloomy darkness hung over its streets. Many lay with covered heads in corners, striking their breasts. Oth­ers, standing on the roofs of the houses, gazed up at the sky and uttered lamentations. Animals were bel­lowing and hiding, birds were flying low and falling to the ground. Pilate had made a visit to Herod, and both were now looking in terror at the sky from that terrace upon which Herod had that morning, with so much state, watched Jesus insulted and maltreated by the mob. "This is not natural," they said. "Too much has certainly been done to Jesus." Then they went across the forum to Pilate's palace. Both were very uneasy, and they walked with rapid strides sur­rounded by their guards. Pilate turned away his head from Gabbatha, the judgment seat, from which he had sentenced Jesus to death. The forum was deserted. The people had hurried to their homes,

Fear and Consternation in Jerusalem


 though some few were still running about with mournful cries, and several small groups were gath­ered in the public places. Pilate sent for some of the Jewish Ancients to come to his palace, and asked them what they thought the darkness meant. As for himself, he said, he looked upon it as a sign of wrath. Their God appeared to be angry at their desiring to put the Galilean to so violent a death, for He cer­tainly was a Prophet and a King, but that he him­self washed his hands, etc. But the Ancients, hardened in their obstinacy, explained it as a natural phenom­enon not at all uncommon. Many were converted, also those soldiers that, at the arrest of Jesus on Mount Olivet, had fallen and again risen.

By degrees a crowd gathered before Pilate's palace. On the same spot upon which they had in the morn­ing cried: "Crucify Him! Away with Him!" they now cried: "Unjust judge! His blood be upon His murder­ers!" Pilate had to surround himself with soldiers. That Zadoch who, in the morning, when Jesus was taken into the judgment hall, had loudly proclaimed His innocence, cried and shouted in such a way that Pilate was on the point of arresting him. Pilate sternly reproached the Jews. He had, he said, no part what­ever in the affair. Jesus was their King, their Prophet, their Holy One whom they, and not he, had put to death. It was nothing to him (Pilate), for they them­selves had brought about His death.

Anxiety and terror reached their height in the Temple. The slaughtering of the Paschal lamb had just begun when the darkness of night suddenly fell upon Jerusalem. All were filled with consternation, while here and there broke forth loud cries of woe. The High Priests did all they could to maintain peace and order. The lamps were lighted, making the sacred precincts as bright as day, but the consternation became only the greater. Annas, terribly tormented, ran from corner to corner in his desire to hide him­self. The screens and lattices before the windows of


Life of Jesus Christ

 the houses were shaken, and yet there was no storm. The darkness was on the increase. In distant quar­ters of the city, the northwest section toward the walls, where there were numerous gardens and sep­ulchers, some of the latter fell in, as if the ground were shaken.

53. Jesus Abandoned. His Fourth Word on the Cross

After Jesus' third word to His Blessed Mother and John, an interval of gloomy silence reigned upon Gol­gotha, and many of the onlookers fled back to the city. The malicious revilings of the Pharisees ceased. The horses and asses of the riders huddled close to one another and drooped their heads. Vapor and fog hung over everything.

Jesus, in unspeakable torture, endured on the cross extreme abandonment and desolation of soul. He prayed to His Heavenly Father in those passages of the Psalms that were now being fulfilled in Him­self. I saw around Him angelic figures. He endured in infinite torment all that a poor, crushed, tortured creature, in the greatest abandonment, without con­solation human or divine, suffers when faith, hope, and love stand alone in the desert of tribulation, without prospect of return, without taste or senti­ment, without a ray of light, left there to live alone. No words can express this pain. By this suffering Jesus gained for us the strength, by uniting our aban­donment to the merits of His own upon the cross, victoriously to conquer at our last hour, when all ties and relations with this life and mode of existence, with this world and its laws, cease; and when there­fore the ideas which we form in this life of the other world also cease. He gained for us merit to stand firm in our own last struggle when we too shall feel ourselves entirely abandoned. He offered His misery, His poverty, His pains, His desolation for us miser­able

Jesus Abandoned


 sinners, so that whoever is united with Jesus in the body of the Church must not despair at that last hour even if, light and consolation being with­drawn, he is left in darkness. Into this desert of inte­rior night we are no longer necessitated to plunge alone and exposed to danger. Jesus has let down into the abyss of the bitter sea of desolation His own inte­rior and exterior abandonment upon the cross, thus leaving the Christian not alone in the dereliction of death, when the light of heavenly consolation burns dim. For the Christian in that last hour of peril, there is no longer any dark and unknown region, any lone­liness, any abandonment, any despair; for Jesus, the Light, the Truth, and the Way, blessed the dark way by traversing it Himself, and by planting His cross upon it, chased from it all that is frightful.

Jesus wholly abandoned, wholly deprived of all things, and utterly helpless, sacrificed Himself in infi­nite love. Yes, He turned His abandonment itself into a rich treasure by offering to His Heavenly Father His life, labors, love, and sufferings, along with the bitter sense of our ingratitude that thereby He might strengthen our weakness and enrich our poverty. He made before God His last testament, by which He gave over all His merits to the Church and to sin­ners. He thought of everyone. In His abandonment He was with every single soul until the end of time. He prayed too for those heretics who believe that being God, He did not feel His sufferings, and that as man He felt them only a little, or at least far less than another would have done. But while I was shar­ing in and sympathizing with Jesus' prayer, I heard these words as if coming from His lips: "We should, by all means, teach the people that Jesus, more keenly than any human being can conceive, endured this pain of utter abandonment, because He was hyposta­tically united with the Divinity, because He was truly God and man. Being in His Sacred Humanity wholly abandoned by the Father, He felt most perfectly that


Life of Jesus Christ

 bereavement, He drained to the dregs the bitter cup of dereliction, He experienced for the time what a soul endures that has lost its God forever.

And so when in His agony He cried out with a loud voice, He meant not only to make known His dereliction, but also to publish to all afflicted souls who acknowledge God as their Father that the priv­ilege of recurring to Him in filial confidence He mer­ited for them then and there. Toward the third hour, Jesus cried in a loud voice: "Eli, Eli, lamma sabac­thani!" which means: "My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me!"

When this clear cry of Our Lord broke the fearful stillness around the cross, the scoffers turned toward it and one said: "He is calling Elias"; and another: "Let us see whether Elias will come to deliver Him." When the most afflicted Mother heard the voice of her Son, she could no longer restrain herself. She again pressed forward to the cross, followed by John, Mary Cleophas, Magdalen, and Salome.

While the people around were lamenting and trem­bling with fear, a troop of about thirty distinguished men from Judea and the neighborhood of Joppa came riding up on horseback. They were on their way to Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast. When they beheld the frightful treatment to which Jesus had been subjected and the threatening appearances in nature, they expressed their horror aloud and cried out: "Were it not that the Temple of God is in it, this cruel city should be burned to the ground for hav­ing charged itself with such a crime."

Such expressions from strangers evidently of high rank encouraged the people. Loud murmurs and cries of grief resounded everywhere, and many of those similarly impressed retired together from the scene. The remaining spectators were now divided into two parties: one gave utterance to sorrow and indigna­tion; the other continued to insult Jesus and rage against Him. The Pharisees, however, were disheart­ened.

The Sky Brightens


 They feared a rising of the populace, since great disturbance was even then prevailing in Jerusalem. They deliberated with the Centurion Abenadar, whereupon an order was given to close the city gate in the neighborhood of Mount Calvary, that commu­nication with the city might thus be cut off. A mes­senger was sent to Pilate and Herod for a bodyguard of five hundred men to prevent an insurrection. In the meantime, the Centurion Abenadar did all in his power to secure peace and order. He forbade the Pharisees to insult Jesus, lest the people might be infuriated.

Soon after three o'clock the sky brightened a lit­tle, and the moon began to recede from the sun in an opposite direction. The sun, red and rayless, appeared surrounded by a mist, and the moon sank suddenly as if falling to the opposite side. By degrees the sunbeams shone out again, and the stars disap­peared, but the sky still looked lowering. With return­ing light, the scoffers on Calvary again became bold and triumphant. Then it was that they said: "He is calling Elias." Abenadar commanded quiet and order.

54. The Death of Jesus. Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Words on the Cross

As it grew light, the body of Jesus could be seen on the cross, pale, weak, perfectly exhausted, becom­ing whiter from the great loss of blood. He said, I know not whether praying in voice audible to me alone, or half-aloud: "I am pressed like the wine which was once trodden here in the wine press. I must pour out all My blood until water cometh, and the shell becometh white, but wine shall here be made no more."

(For an explanation of these words, Anne Cather­ine was shown a vision, from which she related what follows:) I saw on Mount Calvary after the Deluge the Patriarch Japhet, a tall, dark-skinned old man,


Life of Jesus Christ

 encamping with numerous flocks and descendants. Their huts were sunk in the earth, the roofs cov­ered with sods upon which plants and flowers were growing. Grapevines were everywhere flourishing, and wine was made on Mount Calvary in a new way, over which Japhet himself presided. I saw also the various ways in which wine was formerly prepared and used, and many circumstances connected with the wine itself, of which I remember only the fol­lowing: at first, the grapes were merely eaten; later on, they were pressed in stone troughs by means of wooden blocks, and lastly huge wooden cylinders and pestles were employed for the same end. But in the time of Japhet, I saw that a new kind of press was invented, in form very like the Holy Cross. The trunk of a tree, hollow and large in diameter, was placed upright, and in it were suspended the grapes in a sack through which the juice could run. Upon the sack pressed a pestle and block. On either side of the hollow trunk and directed toward the sack were arms which, on being worked up and down, crushed the grapes. The juice thus expressed flowed through five holes bored in the hollow trunk down into a vat cut in the rock. From this it ran into a vessel formed of two pieces of bark, each taken from a tree cut in half from top to bottom. The two halves, being put together, were then overlaid with thin wooden rods, and the cracks cemented with pitch. From this last vessel, the grape juice flowed into that rocky cellar like cave into which the Lord Jesus was thrust before His Crucifixion. At the time of Japhet it was a pure cistern. I saw that the cracks of the wooden vat were covered with sods and stones for greater protection. At the foot of the press and that of the stone vat, haircloth was laid before an opening in one of the cracks, to catch the skins which were always dis­posed of on that side. When the press was ready to receive them, the workmen filled the sack with grapes (which until wanted were stored away in the cis­tern),

The Wine Press


 hung it in the hollow upright, nailed it fast, placed the heavy pestle with its block in the open mouth of the sack, and began to work the levers in and out, thus making them strike against the sack of grapes, from which the wine flowed. I saw another workman busy at the top of the press, keeping the contents of the sack from making their way up above the block. These particulars reminded me of Jesus' Crucifixion, on account of the striking similarity between the press and the cross. They had also a long tube with a prickly head, like a hedgehog (per­haps it was a large thistle head), and this they pushed through the crack and the upright press whenever they became stopped up. This tube recalled the lance and sponge. I saw, standing around, leathern bot­tles and vessels of bark smeared with pitch. I saw many youths and boys, with girdles such as Jesus used to wear, working here. Japhet was very old. He was clothed in the skins of beasts and wore a long beard.

He regarded the new wine press with great satis­faction. There was celebrated a festival, and on a stone altar, animals that had been allowed to run in the vineyard, young asses, goats, and sheep, were sacrificed.

Jesus was now completely exhausted. With His parched tongue, He uttered the words: "I thirst!" And when His friends looked up at Him sadly, He said to them: "Could you not have given Me a drink of water?" He meant that during the darkness no one would have prevented their doing so. John was trou­bled at Jesus' words, and he replied: "O Lord, we for­got it!" Jesus continued to speak in words such as these: "My nearest friends must forget Me and offer Me no drink, that the Scriptures may be fulfilled." This forgetfulness was very bitter to Him. Hearing Jesus' complaint, His friends begged the soldiers and offered them money if they would reach to Him a drink of water. They would not do it, but instead


Life of Jesus Christ

 they dipped a pear-shaped sponge into vinegar, a lit­tle bark keg of which was standing near, and poured upon it some drops of gall. But the Centurion Abenadar, whose heart was touched by Jesus, took the sponge from the soldiers, pressed it out, and filled it with pure vinegar. Then he stuck into it a sprig of hyssop, which served as a mouthpiece for suck­ing, and fastened the whole to the point of his lance. He raised it in such a way that the tube should incline to Jesus' mouth and through it He might be able to suck the vinegar from the sponge.

Of some of the words that I heard the Lord speak­ing in admonition to the people, I remember only that He said: "And when I shall no longer have voice, the mouth of the dead shall speak"; whereupon some of the bystanders cried out: "He still blasphemes!" But Abenadar commanded peace.

The hour of the Lord was now come. He was strug­gling with death, and a cold sweat burst out on every limb. John was standing by the cross and wiping Jesus' feet with his handkerchief. Magdalen, utterly crushed with grief, was leaning at the back of the cross. The Blessed Virgin, supported in the arms of Mary Cleophas and Salome, was standing between Jesus and the cross of the good thief, her gaze fixed upon her dying Son. Jesus spoke: "It is consummated!" and raising His head He cried with a loud voice: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit!" The sweet, loud cry rang through Heaven and earth. Then He bowed His head and gave up the ghost. I saw His soul like a luminous phantom descending through the earth near the cross down to the sphere of Limbo. John and the holy women sank, face downward, pros­trate on the earth.

Abenadar the Centurion, an Arab by birth, and a disciple baptized later on at Ctesiphon, had, since the moment in which he had given Jesus the vinegar to drink, remained seated on his horse close to the emi­nence upon which the cross was raised, the forefeet

"It is Consummated!"


 of the animal planted near it and, consequently, higher than the hind feet. Deeply affected, he gazed long, earnestly and fixedly into the thorn-crowned counte­nance of Jesus. The horse hung his head as if in fear, and Abenadar, whose pride was humbled, let the reins hang loose. When the Lord in a clear, strong voice uttered those last words, when He died with that loud cry that rang through Heaven, earth, and Hell, the earth quaked and the rock between Him and the thief on His left was rent asunder with a crashing sound. That loud cry, that witness of God, resounded like a warning, arousing terror and shuddering in mourning nature. It was consummated! The soul of Our Lord had left the body! The death cry of the dying Redeemer had roused all that heard it; even the earth, by its undulations, seemed to recognize the Saviour, and a sharp sword of sorrow pierced the hearts of those that loved Him. Then it was that grace penetrated the soul of Abenadar. The horse trembled under his rider, who was reeling with emotion; then it was that grace conquered that proud mind, hard as the rock of Calvary. He threw his lance to the ground and, with his great clenched fist, struck his breast vigorous blows, crying aloud in the voice of a changed man: "Blessed be God the Almighty, the God of Abraham and Jacob! This was a just Man! Truly, He is the Son of God!" And many of the soldiers, deeply affected by his words, followed his example.

Abenadar, who was now a changed being, a man redeemed, after his public homage to the Son of God would no longer remain in the service of His ene­mies, He turned his horse toward Cassius, the sub­altern officer, known under the name of Longinus, dismounted, picked up his lance, presented it to him and addressed a few words both to him and the sol­diers. Cassius mounted the horse and assumed the command. Abenadar next hurried down Mount Cal­vary and through the Valley of Gihon to the caves in the Valley of Hinnom, where he announced to the


Life of Jesus Christ

 disciples hidden therein the death of the Lord, after which he hastened into the city and went straight to Pilate.

Terror fell upon all at the sound of Jesus' death cry, when the earth quaked and the rock neath the cross was split asunder. A feeling of dread pervaded the whole universe. The veil of the Temple was on the instant rent in twain, the dead arose from their graves, the walls in the Temple fell, while moun­tains and buildings were overturned in many parts of the world.

Abenadar rendered public testimony to his belief in Jesus, and his example was followed by many of the soldiers. Numbers of those present, and some of the Pharisees last come to the scene, were con­verted. Many struck their breast, wept, and returned home, while others rent their garments and sprin­kled their head with dust. All were filled with fear and dread.

John at last arose. Some of the holy women, who until then were standing at a distance, now pressed into the circle, raised the Mother of Jesus and her companions, and led them away.

When the loving Lord of life, by a death full of torture, paid for sinners their debt, as man He com­mended His soul to His God and Father, and gave His body over to the tomb. Then the pale, chill pal­lor of death overspread that sacred vessel now so terribly bruised and quivering with pain. It became perfectly white, and the streams of blood running down from the numerous wounds grew darker and more perceptible. His face was elongated, His cheeks sunken, His nose sharp and pinched. His under jaw fell, and His eyes, which had been closed and full of blood, opened halfway. For a few instants He raised His thorn-crowned head for the last time and then let it sink on His breast under the burden of pain. His lips, blue and parted, disclosed the bloody tongue in His open mouth. His fingers, which had been con­tracted

The Death of Jesus


 around the heads of the nails, now relaxed and fell a little forward while the arms stretched out to their natural size. His back straightened itself against the cross, and the whole weight of His Sacred Body fell upon the feet. His knees bent and fell to one side, and His feet twisted a little around the nail that pierced them.

When Jesus' hands became stiff, His Mother's eyes grew dim, the paleness of death overspread her coun­tenance, her feet tottered, and she sank to the earth. Magdalen, John, and the others, yielding to their grief, fell also with veiled faces.

When that most loving, that most afflicted Mother arose from the ground, she beheld the Sacred Body of her Son, whom she had conceived by the Holy Ghost, the flesh of her flesh, the bone of her bone, the heart of her heart, the holy vessel formed by the divine overshadowing in her own blessed womb, now deprived of all its beauty and comeliness and even of its most holy soul, given up to the laws of that nature which He had Himself created and which man had by sin abused and disfigured. She beheld that beloved Son crushed, maltreated, disfigured, and put to death by the hands of those whom He had come in the flesh to restore to grace and life. Ah! She beheld that Sacred Body thrust from among men, despised, derided, emptied, as it were, of all that was beautiful, truthful, and lovely, hanging like a leper, mangled on the cross between two murderers! Who can conceive the sorrow of the Mother of Jesus, of the Queen of Martyrs!

The sun was still obscured by fog. During the earth­quake the air was close and oppressive, but after­ward there was a sensible decrease in temperature. The appearance of Our Lord's corpse on the cross was exceedingly awful and impressive. The thieves were hanging in frightful contortions, and seemingly intoxicated with liquor. At last both became silent. Dismas was in prayer.


Life of Jesus Christ

It was just after three o'clock when Jesus expired. When the first alarm produced by the earthquake was over, some of the Pharisees grew bolder. They approached the chasm made by it in the rock of Cal­vary, threw stones into it, fastened ropes together, and let them down; but as they could not reach the bottom of the abyss, they became a little more thoughtful and, comprehending in some degree why people were lamenting and beating their breast, they rode off from the scene. Some were entirely changed in their ideas. The people soon dispersed and went in fear and anxiety through the valley in the direc­tion of the city, many of them being converted. Part of the band of fifty Roman soldiers strengthened the guard at the city gate until the arrival of the five hundred that had been asked for. The gate was locked. Other posts around were occupied by soldiers, to prevent a concourse of people and confusion. Cas­sius (Longinus) and about five of his soldiers remained inside the circle and lying around on the rampart. Jesus' relatives were near the cross. They sat in front of it, lamenting and weeping. Several of the holy women had returned to the city. All was lonely, still, and sad. Off in the distance, here and there, in the valley and on the remote heights, a disciple might be descried peering timidly and inquir­ingly toward the cross, and retiring quickly on the approach of anyone.

55. The Earthquake. Apparitions of the Dead in Jerusalem

When Jesus with a loud cry gave up His Spirit into the hands of His Heavenly Father, I saw His soul, like a luminous figure, penetrating the earth at the foot of the cross, accompanied by a band of luminous angels, among whom was Gabriel. I saw a great multitude of evil spirits driven by those angels from the earth into the abyss. Jesus sent many souls

The Earthquake


 from Limbo to re-enter their body, in order to frighten and warn the impenitent, as well as to bear witness to Himself.

By the earthquake at Jesus' death, when the rock of Calvary was split, many portions of the earth were up heaved while others sank, and this was espe­cially the case in Palestine and Jerusalem. In the Temple and throughout the city, the inhabitants were just recovering somewhat from the fright caused by the darkness when the heaving of the earth, the crash of falling buildings in many quarters, gave rise to still more general consternation; and, to crown their terror, the trembling and wailing crowd, hur­rying hither and thither in dire confusion, en­countered here and there the corpses raised from the dead, as they walked about uttering their warn­ings in hollow voices.

The High Priests in the Temple had recommenced the slaughtering of the lambs, which had been inter­rupted by the frightful darkness. They were rejoicing triumphantly over the returning light when suddenly the ground began to quake, a hollow rumbling was heard, and the crash of toppling walls, accompanied by the hissing noise made by the rending of the veil, produced for the moment in the vast assemblage speechless terror broken only by an occasional cry of woe. But the crowd was so well-ordered, the immense edifice so full, the going and coming of the great num­ber engaged in slaughtering so perfectly regulated—the act of slaughtering, the draining of blood, the sprinkling of the altars with it by the long row of countless priests amid the sound of canticles and trum­pets—all this was done with so great accord, so great harmony of action, that the fright did not lead to gen­eral confusion and dispersion. The Temple was so large, there were so many different halls and apart­ments, that the sacrifices went on quietly in some, while fright and horror were pervading others, and in others still the priests managed to keep order. It


Life of Jesus Christ

 was not till the dead made their appearance in dif­ferent parts of the Temple that the ceremonies were entirely interrupted and the sacrifices discontinued, as if the Temple had become polluted. Still even this did not come so suddenly upon the multitude as to cause them in their flight to rush precipitously down the numerous steps of the Temple. They dispersed by degrees, hurrying down one group at a time, while in some quarters of the building the priests were able to bring back the frightened worshippers and keep them together. Still, however, the anxiety, the fright of all, though different in degree, was something quite indescribable.

The appearance of the Temple at this moment may be pictured to oneself by comparing it to a great anthill in full and well-ordered activity. Let a stone be thrown into it or a stick introduced among the little creatures here and there, and confusion will reign around the immediate scene of disturbance, though activity may continue uninterruptedly in other groups, and soon the damaged places are cov­ered and repaired.

The High Priest Caiaphas and his followers, owing to their desperate insolence, did not lose presence of mind. Like the sagacious magistrate of a sedi­tious city, by threats, by the separation of parties, by persuasion, and all kinds of deceitful arguments, Caiaphas warded off the danger. By his demoniacal obstinacy especially, and his own apparent calmness, he prevented not only a general panic, so destruc­tive in its consequences, but likewise hindered the people from construing those frightful warnings into a testimony of the innocent death of Jesus. The Roman garrison on the fortress Antonia did all that could be done to maintain order, and although the confusion and consternation were great and caused a discontinuance of the festal ceremonies, yet there was no insurrection. The blaze was reduced to a glimmering spark of anxiety, which the people, sep­arating

Life of Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmerich
Vol 4

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